Praying For Others

“WITH ALL PRAYER AND PETITION PRAY AT ALL TIMES IN THE SPIRIT, AND WITH THIS IN VIEW, BE ON THE ALERT WITH ALL PERSEVERANCE AND PETITION FOR ALL THE SAINTS” (EPH. 6:18).

God wants you to look beyond your own problems and pray for the needs of others.

The great preacher D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “Before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, in Barcelona, Madrid and other places, there were psychological clinics with large numbers of neurotics undergoing drug treatments and others attending regularly for psychoanalysis and such like. They had their personal problems, their worries, their anxieties, their temptations, having to go back week after week, month after month, to the clinics in order to be kept going.

“Then came the Civil War; and one of the first and most striking effects of that War was that it virtually emptied the psychological and psychiatric clinics. These neurotic people were suddenly cured by a greater anxiety, the anxiety about their whole position, whether their homes would still be there, whether their husbands would still be alive, whether their children would be killed.

“Their greater anxieties got rid of the lesser ones. In having to give attention to the bigger problem they forgot their own personal and somewhat petty problems” (The Christian Soldier: An Exposition of Ephesians 6:10 to 20 [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978], p. 357).

That’s a negative illustration of a positive principle: your own problems pale as you pray in the Spirit on behalf of others. Praying “in the Spirit” (Eph. 6:18) is praying in concert with the Holy Spirit—in harmony with His Person and will. It’s synonymous with praying according to God’s will (1 John 5:14).

As the Holy Spirit intercedes for you (Rom. 8:26-27), you are to intercede for others. That’s not always easy in our contemporary religious environment where self- centeredness is praised rather than shunned, and more and more professing Christians are embracing the health, wealth, and prosperity heresy. But God’s mandate is for us to love one another, pray for one another, and look out for one another’s interests (Phil. 2:3-4). Let that mandate govern all your relationships.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Make a list of people you want to intercede for.
  • Spend time praying for each person, asking God to show you specific ways to minister to his or her needs.

For Further Study

  • Read Philippians 2:1-11.
  • What should be your attitude toward other believers?
  • How did Christ set an example of proper attitudes?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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Pursuing Truthfulness

“STAND FIRM THEREFORE, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH” (EPH. 6:14).

Truthfulness is the best defense against Satan’s lies.

The first piece of armor Paul mentions in Ephesians 6:14 is the belt of truth. Roman soldiers of his day wore a tunic, which was a large square piece of material with holes for the head and arms. A belt kept the tunic from flying loosely and getting in the way in the midst of battle.

The phrase “having girded your loins” was commonly used for gathering up the loose material of one’s tunic or robe when preparing for battle or travel. It speaks of preparedness, as in Exodus 12:11, where God tells the children of Israel to gird their loins for their exodus from Egypt. Jesus used it in a figurative sense in Luke 12:35, where He warns us to gird our loins or “be dressed in readiness” for His second coming. Peter said we’re to gird our minds for action (1 Pet. 1:13).

The Greek word translated “truth” in Ephesians 6:14 can refer either to the content of that which is true or to an attitude of truthfulness. Both are implied in the verse. In Ephesians 4 Paul combines both aspects in warning us not to be “tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (vv. 14-15). Instead, we are to embrace sound doctrine and always speak the truth in love.

The way to defend yourself against the cunning deceptions of Satan is to gird yourself with a thorough knowledge of God’s Word and a firm commitment to obedience. Yet many Christians remain vulnerable because they’re unwilling to do that.

Just as Paul exhorted the Philippians to excel in knowledge and discernment and to remain sincere and blameless until in Christ’s presence (Phil. 1:9-10), so you must also do the same. Never be content with your present level of spirituality. Keep learning and growing. Demonstrate an attitude of truthfulness that reveals your commitment to God’s Word and your readiness for battle.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Is your life characterized by truthfulness? If not, you’re a ready target for Satan’s schemes. Confess it to the Lord and ask Him to cleanse your heart and give you a love for His truth. Begin today to apply His Word to your life.

For Further Study

  • Read verses 1-4 and 13-15 of 2 Corinthians 11, noting the tactics of Satan and his servants.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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Attacks On God’s Character

By Letters@Gty.org (Grace To You), Sep 8, 2019

“STAND FIRM AGAINST THE SCHEMES OF THE DEVIL” (EPH. 6:11).

One of Satan’s most effective tactics is to challenge God’s credibility.

Paul’s exhortation to “stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:11) refers to the various tactics Satan employs in spiritual warfare. One of his tactics is to call God’s character and motives into question by raising doubts about His Word.

He used that approach in the Garden of Eden, when he said to Eve, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” (Gen. 3:1). In one brief statement Satan disputed and distorted God’s Word. God didn’t forbid them to eat from any tree. They could eat freely from every tree except one: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (2:16-17).

Satan followed his distortion with an outright denial of God’s Word: “You surely shall not die!” (3:4). He implied that God lied when He said that sin will result in death. Satan then went on to tell Eve that if she ate the fruit, she would in fact become like God Himself (v. 5). The implication is that God was withholding something good from Eve, and to keep her from seeking it, He intimidated her with empty threats of death and judgment.

Do you see the insidious nature of Satan’s approach? Tragically, Eve didn’t. Rather than trusting and obeying God, she believed Satan’s lies and concluded that the tree was good for food, a delight to the eyes, and desirable to make one wise. Then “she took from its fruit and ate” (v. 6).

Satan deceives and spreads his lies from generation to generation (2 Cor. 11:14). Although he is subtle, his attempts to discredit God by disputing, distorting, and denying His Word should be obvious to discerning Christians.

Don’t be victimized by Satan’s attacks. Become strong in the Word through systematic Bible study. Yield to the Spirit’s control through prayer and obedience to biblical principles.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask God for the discernment to recognize Satanic deceptions, and the wisdom to pursue truth.
  • Pray for God’s enabling as you discipline yourself for diligent Bible study.

For Further Study

  • Read 1 John 2:12-14. How did John describe those who are strong in the Word?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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The Reality Of Spiritual Warfare

“BE STRONG IN THE LORD, AND IN THE STRENGTH OF HIS MIGHT. PUT ON THE FULL ARMOR OF GOD, THAT YOU MAY BE ABLE TO STAND FIRM AGAINST THE SCHEMES OF THE DEVIL. FOR OUR STRUGGLE IS NOT AGAINST FLESH AND BLOOD, BUT AGAINST THE RULERS, AGAINST THE POWERS, AGAINST THE WORLD FORCES OF THIS DARKNESS, AGAINST THE SPIRITUAL FORCES OF WICKEDNESS IN THE HEAVENLY PLACES” (EPH. 6:10-12).

Victory in battle comes when you identify the enemy, resist his attacks, and then take the initiative against him.

Our nation has known many wars, but Vietnam was an especially frustrating campaign. Thick jungle terrain made the enemy hard to find and guerrilla warfare made him hard to fight. Many Vietnamese who peacefully worked the rice paddies by day donned the black garb of the Viet Cong soldier by night and invaded unsuspecting U.S. forces camped nearby. American public opinion was strongly anti-war and morale among our troops was often low.

Spiritual warfare has similar parallels. Subtly and deceitfully, Satan disguises himself as an angel of light and “prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). His emissaries disguise themselves as apostles of Christ and servants of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:13-15). It takes wisdom and discernment to identify them and defend yourself against their attacks.

Most people are defenseless, however, because they scoff at the supernatural and deny the reality of spiritual warfare. They think Satan may be fine for movie plots and book sales, but assume only the superstitious and credulous take him seriously. Unfortunately, many Christians have succumbed to their ridicule and forsaken the battle.

Ephesians 6:10-24 reminds us that spiritual warfare is real and that God has given us all the resources we need— not only to defend ourselves, but also to take the initiative and win the victory over the forces of darkness.

I pray that this will encourage you in the battle and challenge you to always have on “the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:11).

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Seek discernment and grace to identify the enemy and stand against him courageously.

For Further Study

  • Read Ephesians 6:10-24. What armor has God supplied to protect you in spiritual warfare?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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Treating Others With Consideration

“[LOVE] DOES NOT ACT UNBECOMINGLY” (1 COR. 13:5).

Considerate behavior demonstrates godly love and adds credibility to your witness.

When I was a young child, I loved to slurp my soup. I didn’t see any harm in it even though my parents constantly objected. Then one evening I ate with someone who slurped his soup. He was having a great time but I didn’t enjoy my meal very much. Then I realized that proper table manners are one way of showing consideration for others. It says, “I care about you and don’t want to do anything that might disrupt your enjoyment of this meal.”

On a more serious note, I know a couple who got an annulment on the grounds that the husband was rude to his wife. She claimed that his incessant burping proved that he didn’t really love her. The judge ruled in her favor, stating that if the husband truly loved her, he would have been more considerate. That’s a strange story but true, and it illustrates the point that love is not rude.

“Unbecomingly” in 1 Corinthians 13:5 includes any behavior that violates acceptable biblical or social standards. We could paraphrase it, “Love is considerate of others.” That would have been in stark contrast to the inconsiderate behavior of the Corinthians—many of whom were overindulging at their love feasts and getting drunk on the Communion wine (1 Cor. 11:20-22). Some women were overstepping bounds by removing their veils and usurping the role of men in the church (1 Cor. 11:3-16; 14:34-35). Both men and women were corrupting the worship services by trying to outdo one another’s spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 14:26).

Undoubtedly the Corinthians justified their rude behavior—just as we often justify ours. But rudeness betrays a lack of love and is always detrimental to effective ministry. For example, I’ve seen Christians behave so rudely toward non-Christians who smoke that they destroyed any opportunity to tell them about Christ.

Be aware of how you treat others—whether believers or unbelievers. Even the smallest of courtesies can make a profound impression.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask the Holy Spirit to monitor your behavior and convict you of any loveless actions. As He does, be sure to confess and forsake them.

For Further Study

  • Read Luke 7:36-50. How did Jesus protect the repentant woman from the Pharisee’s rudeness?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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Benevolence Without Love

“If I give all my possessions to feed the poor . . . but do not have love, it profits me nothing” (1 Cor. 13:3).

Love is characterized by self-sacrifice, but not all self-sacrifice is an act of love.

If you’ve ever donated to your church or another charitable organization out of obligation, peer pressure, legalism, guilt, a desire for recognition, or simply a tax deduction, you know what it means to give without love. In our society it’s easy to fall prey to that kind of giving because the needs are so great and fund raisers appeal to every conceivable motive. In addition, many cults and false religions encourage the giving up of possessions and other sacrificial gestures as a supposed means of earning God’s favor. But God is more interested in why you give than what you give.

Paul’s hypothetical illustration in 1 Corinthians 13:3 is of someone who sacrificed everything he had to feed the poor. The Greek word translated “to feed” means “to dole out in small quantities.” Apparently this guy didn’t simply write out a check for a food distribution program; he was personally involved in a long-term, systematic program that would eventually consume every resource he had.

Paul doesn’t mention motives—only that this person lacked love. Consequently, the benefits of his benevolence were limited to the physical realm. Any spiritual benefits were forfeited.

Jesus, making a similar point, said, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 6:1). If your motive for giving is to gain the approval of men, their accolades will be your only reward. If you’re motivated by love for God, He will reward you abundantly (vv. 2-4).

When you give to the Lord, what is your motive? Do you want others to think more highly of you? Do you feel obligated? Those are subtle influences, so be sure to guard your motives carefully. Remember, the only acceptable motive is love.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask the Holy Spirit to keep you sensitive to the needs of others, enabling you always to give out of genuine love.

For Further Study

  • Read Luke 18:9-14.
  • How did the Pharisee’s prayer differ from the tax-gatherer’s?
  • How did God respond to each prayer?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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The Source Of True Love

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God. . . . We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:7, 19).

True love cannot be generated on the human level. It’s a gift from God.

Scripture often makes seemingly impossible demands of us. For example, Jesus said, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). That’s easy to say, but how is it possible? Our natural tendency is to love our friends and hate our enemies. But Jesus said, “If you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” (vv. 46-47).

Israel viewed tax-gatherers as traitors, and Gentiles as spiritual outcasts. Yet even traitors and outcasts show love and kindness to those who reciprocate. Jesus calls us to a much higher standard of love—one that is impartial, like God demonstrates when He “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (v. 45). As we see from God Himself, it extends even to those who aren’t worthy: “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

Despite generations of rebellion and slander against His holy will and name, God sacrificed His beloved Son, thereby providing the means by which sinners can be saved. Out of love, Jesus willingly endured the pain and shame of the cross and paid the price of our redemption. Now that’s divine love in action!

God commands you to love as He loves: impartially and sacrificially. That may sound impossible on the human level but remember that God never requires you to do anything He hasn’t already enabled you to do. At the moment of your salvation, the Holy Spirit took up residence within you and began producing the fruit of love (Gal. 5:22). You don’t have to muster it up on your own. All you have to do is invite the Spirit to take control, allowing Him to govern your thoughts and actions. As you do, His precious fruit will be multiplied in your life.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for the love of the Spirit He has placed within you.
  • Ask Him for opportunities today to learn how to love more perfectly.

For Further Study

  • Memorize Galatians 5:22-23.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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